Watching and reading about the deaths and funerals in Pittsburgh this week is incredibly sad. Countless memorial services have taken place around the country. This Shabbat has been designated by several organizations as a memorial Shabbat. Both Am Kolel and Kehila will be sending donations to the victims' families through a fund set up by the Federation of Pittsburgh.
Ironically, this week's Parsha, Chayei Sarah, concerns the deaths of Sarah and Abraham. We see the beginnings of Jewish mourning rituals in this Parsha. In the case of Sarah we also see the need for advanced directives and the details that are necessary for the respectful burial of our loved ones. Abraham has not made prior arrangements for his wife. Imagine the additional grief he felt in negotiating with the local Hittite leader. In the end of the Parsha, we learn of the death of Moses and how his two sons, Isaac and Ishmael, previously estranged from each other, come to jointly bury their father.
However, the Parsha does teach us about how we respect our loved ones in death. It is incumbent upon all of us to prepare for our deaths. This is not only done by writing advanced directives but also by writing down our personal teachings and ethical wills to our family and friends.
Abraham and Sarah were very much concerned about the future generations. With the horrible massacre and deaths in Pittsburgh and the daily deaths due to gun violence we can no longer be satisfied that our leaders will do something. If you think that it is only about electing a democratic congress you are wrong.
A moratorium - a period of Shiva across social and economic differences must begin. This is my suggestion to the hundreds of worthy organizations from Move On to the Southern Poverty Law Center, to Interfaith Public Action, the ACLU and so on. This is a great opportunity to raise monies but also to do something. Call a general strike. Call for 1000s of mass arrests in front of the Congress, State Legislatures, and the White House. If not now, when!? Rabbi David Shneyer